A Message from the President
December 13, 2010 - Students United in Pursuit of Educational Respect (SUPER) Q&A
The Southeastern SGA asked the Lion’s Roar staff to help with compiling the first round of questions posed to Southeastern President John Crain. They presented the following questions as the top questions students want answered about the budget situation:
- Q: Why are these cuts necessary? Is
Southeastern the only university in Louisiana feeling the impact
of these budget cuts? In comparison, how have we faired,
and who’s been hit the hardest? Is Southeastern in
danger of closing? Are there any other institutions of
higher education in danger of closing?
A: The cuts are the result of shortfalls between revenues and expenses in the State budget. While many areas of the State budget are protected from cuts by provisions in the State Constitution or State Statutes, higher education and healthcare are not. Unfortunately, this means these two areas absorb a disproportionate part of cuts whenever there is a State budget shortfall. All colleges and universities have seen their State support reduced over the past 21 months. To date, Southeastern’s cumulative reduction in State appropriations amounts to about $16.2 million. As the State’s third largest public university, Southeastern is in no imminent danger of closing. One of the most important jobs of the university administration is to ensure university finances are well managed and the university’s budget remains balanced. Despite the recent challenges of reduced State support, the university is currently financially sound and able to meet its financial obligations.
Closing any university would be a very politically difficult decision. Obviously, many people, including the faculty, staff and students would be impacted and likely oppose the decision. In addition, closing any university requires legislative action.
- Q: How is it decided as to what programs to
cut? What are the deciding factors? Who gets the
final decision on what programs are cut?
A: A recent comprehensive review of all academic programs at Southeastern, which involved faculty, staff and students at multiple levels, generated prioritization criteria and associated qualitative and quantitative data, including factors such as number of majors, number of completers, student credit hour production, class load factors, program costs and impact on regional culture, workforce and economy. These academic program criteria were developed in multiple stages, beginning with input from our Faculty Senate. In the second step, the criteria were refined and expanded by an ad hoc task force of faculty members. These criteria were then shared with deans and department heads for their feedback. Finally, a student group was convened and asked to review and provide input regarding the criteria.
A final group comprised of our academic deans and senior faculty from each college, led by our Provost, reviewed academic programs using the extensive criteria. Recommendations to our Board of Supervisors regarding any academic program eliminations will be informed by the work of this group. Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Regents make the final decision based on recommendations from the university Administration. For non-instructional/outreach programs, criteria were developed with the assistance of an ad hoc task force that included faculty, staff and community members. The criteria that group developed were also shared with the student group for its review and feedback. These criteria are being used to prioritize non-instructional/outreach programs.
Both sets of criteria are available for review at: http://www.selu.edu/admin/president/prioritization_acad/index.html.
- Q: If my degree program gets cut, what does that
mean to me and what will I have to do in order to graduate with
the degree I want? Am I going to be able to graduate on
time if the university keeps cutting my courses?
A: Every reasonable effort will be made to allow students currently enrolled in any discontinued programs to complete their degrees. Southeastern has made every effort to not reduce the availability of courses as a result of the budget cuts. The Provost has worked very closely with academic deans and department heads to ensure that courses remain available to students.
- Q: Will scholarships be reduced or
eliminated? How much of a reduction? How will it
affect current students on scholarship?
A: To date, funding for scholarships and student worker positions have not been reduced. If additional budget cuts occur, scholarships and/or student worker funds may have to be reduced. Should this happen, every effort will be made to minimize the impact on current students on scholarship.
- Q: Will the cuts affect the number of students
admitted into the university?
A: To date it has not, and there are no plans to limit or cap the number of students admitted.
- Q: Is it true we will be going to a 4-½ day
workweek during the Spring semester? How much money is
projected to be saved from this change? How will class
scheduling be affected by such a move? Does that mean less
classes being offered?
A: In order to allow for reduced operating expenses, particularly utilities, effective with the Spring 2011 semester Southeastern will pilot a 4.5 day work week. This is similar to work schedules that are in place at some other University of Louisiana System schools. The 4.5 day week in the spring should save at least $100 -$150,000.
Under this schedule, all full-time employees will continue to work 40 hours during the week. Regular business hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday with the current 45 minute lunch break. Hours of operation on Friday will be from 7:30 through 12:30. Class schedules will be built around Monday-Wednesday, Tuesday-Thursday and Friday morning blocks. Class time blocks will begin at 7:00 a.m. and run until 9:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:45 a.m. on Friday. Two-day-per-week class schedules already are more popular among students than three-day. Feedback from student groups indicates that the new spring schedule may actually be more convenient to more students. Based on extensive study and analysis, work with academic deans and department heads and discussion with students, faculty and staff, we believe this schedule allows us to be more efficient while still meeting the needs of our students and other constituents. Again, our Provost, academic deans and department heads will work to ensure that classes remain available.
- Q: To this date, how many faculty and staff jobs
have been lost, both classified and unclassified? What is
the difference between the two classifications?
A: Approximately $7 million of reductions have been achieved from reduced salaries and benefits associated with the elimination of 167 positions. About half of these have involved layoffs, with the rest coming from retirements and elimination of vacant positions. The faculty positions eliminated to date have been vacant positions, including 13 tenured faculty positions that became vacant when the faculty participated in a voluntary retirement incentive plan last year. The staff positions eliminated included a combination of unclassified and classified positions. Unclassified positions eliminated included a number of administrative positions, including five deans, an assistant vice president, three department heads and several directors.
Classified employees are part of the State Civil Service. Unclassified staff member typically include administrative and professional employees.
- Q: What are furlough days and how does that
impact university faculty and staff? Will furloughing
affect the availability of classes or campus services?
A: A furlough is time off without pay. Furloughed employees are impacted in that their total pay is reduced and their work time is reduced. Significant furloughs, if they occur, could affect the availability of services on campus. Faculty furloughs would occur on non-teaching days in order to minimize the impact on the availability of classes.
- Q: What has been decided about tenure? How
else can faculty and staff expect to be affected by the cuts?
A: There have been and are no proposed changes in tenure. The Board of Supervisors is considering changes to its Rules that establish the amount of advance notification tenured faculty must receive prior to any termination resulting from program discontinuance. If adopted, the changes would shorten the period of advance notice, generally from one year to one semester. As operating budgets are reduced, there are fewer resources to support all activities. This means reductions in supplies, repairs, printing, travel, acquisitions, etc., which makes it more difficult for faculty and staff to do their jobs. If the budget cuts continue to grow, faculty and staff may be furloughed or even terminated.
- Q: Why does it seem that athletics isn't
suffering while entire academic departments/programs are being
cut? How has athletics absorbed the cuts? And should
the cuts continue to get worse, how can the university consider
keeping a very costly football program? If not football,
have any other athletic programs been considered for cuts?
What is the current cost of each athletics program?
A: Support for athletics has been significantly reduced as a result of budget cuts. In fact, the percentage reduction in support for athletics has been greater than the percentage reduction for the rest of the campus. As a result of the cuts, our athletics program has reduced personnel, eliminated the men’s tennis program, reduced travel cost, etc. In addition, they have worked to increase self-generated funds (ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, donations, etc.) to help support operations.
As is the case with all of our programs, should the budget cuts continue to increase, the university will have to evaluate its ability to support athletics. But as is also the case with other programs, those charged with making these decisions must carefully analyze the cost of the program against the benefits to the university.
- Q: Cutting degree programs and laying off
personnel have gained much attention, but what are some other
ways the university has moved to counteract or react to reduced
A: Approximately $9 million of reductions included funds for supplies, maintenance, technology, library acquisitions, travel and support for athletics. We have reorganized a number of departments to streamline activities and reduce costs. The university is making its own biodiesel from used cooking oil in order to operate campus mowing equipment, and we are actively exploring solar water heating opportunities for our student residential facilities.
To date, the reduction in personnel has resulted in savings of about $7 million. The bulk of these savings has not resulted from the elimination of degree programs.
- Q: How involved are the faculty senate and SGA
in the decision-making process? Why don’t students
have more input/influence in the decision-making process when it
is the students who ultimately choose to attend and pay for the
A: One would naturally expect that faculty and students in any particular program would not be in favor of discontinuing that program. Decisions to prioritize and/or eliminate programs should not simply be a popularity contest but should be based, as much as possible, on specific criteria. In order to minimize the likelihood of pitting students or faculty in one program against another, much of the student and faculty participation in the process has been focused on developing the criteria for prioritization.
- Q: With the state’s cuts to higher
education funding, and participating universities raising tuition
by 10% a year as per the LA GRAD Act agreement, how does the
state/university expect students to afford the cost when the
economy is still in decline? Will financial aid to students
be more readily available and easier to obtain?
A: While no one is excited about increasing the cost of education for our students, the fact remains that our tuition is extraordinarily low. The average tuition in Louisiana is much lower than in other states, and the tuition at Southeastern is much lower than most other universities in Louisiana. Southeastern continues to be very focused on providing an outstanding education to our students at the lowest possible cost. For example, we maintain one of the only textbook rental programs in the country, saving students hundreds of dollars each semester. Some Federal financial aid may increase as the cost of attendance increases; however, if the budget cuts continue to grow, institutions will be challenged to make more aid available. It may even be difficult to maintain the current level of aid.
- Q: Will the cost of other student services rise
as well? Will the cost to stay in the dorms increase?
Will the cost of meal plans increase? Will the cost of
A: While some fees may need to increase, particularly in those cases where State funds have been subsidizing a service, many student services should not be impacted by the budget cuts. For example, student cost for meal plans and residential facilities are tied to the cost of providing the service and are not significantly impacted by the State budget cuts.
- Q: How will campus activities/services for
students be affected by these cuts?
A: If the budget cuts continue to grow, those services/activities that have been supported by operating funds could be reduced. Some services may have to be restricted for those who pay a specific fee dedicated for that purpose.
- Q: How will these cuts affect paying student
jobs on campus (student worker positions)?
A: To date, the university has not reduced funds for student labor positions. That could change if the budget cuts continue to grow.
- Q: Which courses or degree programs are
currently being considered for elimination? And why those
A: All degree programs have been evaluated based on the previously described criteria. The programs that are most at risk if the budget cuts continue to grow are those that have the fewest majors and are the least productive, particularly in terms of number of graduates. Southeastern is fortunate that it has few programs that might be considered less productive.
- Q: Are any other
programs/courses/degrees/departments in any danger of being
cut? The Columbia Theatre? The Baton Rouge Campus? Turtle
Cove? The St. Tammany Center? The Livingston Parish Literacy and
A: Non-instructional units have been evaluated in accordance with the previously described criteria. These units also have been required to reduce costs and increase self-generated revenues. Those that require the most financial support from the university and have the least impact on students are most at risk.
- Q: Despite the cuts to higher ed, the university
continues to show signs of growth via the various construction
projects currently going on around campus. How is that
possible? Are they funded differently? If so, what
are the differences between these funding methods?
A: Major construction projects are funded through the State’s capital outlay budget which is completely separate from the State’s operating budget where the university gets a significant part of its resources. The State’s capital outlay budget is funded primarily from the sale of bonds money the State borrows from investors. The part of the State’s operating budget that provides operating funds for higher education comes primarily from tax collections.
As an example, the construction you see on campus related to the expansion of the Kinesiology building is being funded through the capital outlay budget and does not affect the university operating budget.
- Q: How much does it cost to run/operate the
university on a daily weekly, monthly, by semester and on a
A: The university’s annual operating budget is currently around $114 million. The most significant part of the budget is personnel salaries and benefits of faculty and staff. Personnel costs run about $300,000 per work day.
- Q: How can students get involved and help fight
the attack on higher education funding?
A: Knowledge is power. I suggest that you keep abreast of the facts and information available to you whether from reading news articles or checking back regularly with the SUPER website. During these difficult times, I will do my best to make sure you know what I know. Rumors and misinformation can be extremely detrimental. If you are informed with true facts and figures, you can be an influential advocate on behalf of Southeastern.
- Q: There were early talks of consolidation of
the Board of Higher Ed and the state’s university systems,
are they still be considered? What is the most likely
consolidation scenario to be implemented should it happen?
How does consolidation aid funding situation?
A: Legislation was introduced during the last legislative session to consolidate the Board of Regents and the four system boards. The proposal was not approved, and it is too early to tell if such a proposal will be made again during the next legislative session, which will begin in April 2011.
It is unclear how consolidation of the boards would aid funding. Some argue that it would allow for more effective cooperation between institutions and systems. Others argue that it would not save any money and would create other problems.
- Q: Do the students of this institution, as well
as the ones across the rest of the state/country have any legal
protection or rights from the results of funding related
cutbacks? What about faculty/staff/employees?
A: Students probably have little legal protection from the detrimental effects of the budget cuts. Some faculty and staff have certain specified legal employment rights. For example, tenured faculty cannot be terminated except under certain circumstances, and then only after certain procedures have been followed. Likewise, classified staff members have certain rights granted under civil service rules.
- Q: What has been the most difficult aspect to
cope with here at Southeastern relating to the budget cuts and
subsequent decisions made?
A: Having to lay off employees is always extremely difficult. Likewise, it has been very hard to eliminate programs, thus impacting the lives of the students and faculty involved.
- Q: Have there been any pleasant surprises along
the way? Any outside contributions/donations that helped
offset the cuts? Any unexpected benefits?
A: It has been very gratifying to see alumni, friends and supporters of the university step up to help, both in terms of financial contributions, as well as through their support in other ways. It has also been very positive to have so many faculty, staff and students express their commitment to the university during these challenging times.
- Q: Have naming sponsorships of the
university’s facilities been considered to bring in an
additional revenue stream? Ex. Pa Pa John’s Soccer
Complex or Adidas University Center.
A: Yes and some are currently under development.